Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Thoughts and ramblings on critical stuff...

I know that my main area of weakness with uni work is critical analysis and actually showing my thought process to others. I do have one but I find it hard to explain as it is automatically done in my head and I’m not the best at explaining things.

I really struggle with Critical Studies and this is probably going to turn into a rant or wander off subject knowing me but I will try to explain. I find critical analysis very pretentious at times and rather pointless in the way that it is put across. I don’t believe that you have or need to be academically intellectual to produce wonderful and successful artwork. That may sound arrogant and narrow minded but there is reason to my madness – honestly, there is.

I also don’t believe that every artist, in fact probably not even half of them stop and think ‘I am going to make the model stand on a white rug because it signifies her purity’ before they take their image. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pick the white rug because it looks nice, lightens up that part of the image drawing more attention to the subject/main focal point or just because no other colour sits properly with the surroundings and the symbolism is later attached to the image.

The 10 years previous to the course, I worked in Marketing, Advertising and Buying.
Now you would think that critical analysis of images would be used in these fields but from my experiences, that is just not true and certainly not in the context that we are taught at uni and this is where I am having difficulty.

The companies that I worked for were all large and very well known locally, nationally and internationally. Companies included Christian Brann (International Mail Marketing), The Economic & Social Research Council, Swindon Borough Council and The National Trust so I wasn’t exactly working for small family-run companies with smaller agendas.

For instance, I was working with designers and other members of the department to produce advertising leaflets and flyers for local sports centres. Images are always used in these but they were chosen just because the department head liked them and though they looked nice. Seriously, that was the only reason. They didn’t portray accurately the customers that used the facilities which in turn, would put the average ‘Joe Bloggs’ with low self esteem off joining rather than build their confidence and show there are normal everyday people that use the facilities rather than just pretty models and super fit athletic types. After all, ‘Joe Bloggs’ was their target audience. That sounds more like marketing ethics I know, but it is still relevant.

More relevant to my most recent project, greetings cards from The National Trust. These do go through a selection process and each range of cards is selected for different reasons but the critical art analysis was never evident.
Selections made were based on property relevance, the previous years’ sales, the suppliers statistics, predicted future sales and the buyers personal opinions.
In 2 years, I never once witnessed or participated in a selection where the Buyer would say ‘I want this to be in the new range because the composition and ascetic quality is pleasing to the eye. The lighting is wonderful because it was shot at sunset which increases the emphasis of the shadows and the colours of the sky warms the tones making the image feel much more friendly, comforting and pleasing to the recipient’.

So, are you starting to see where I’m coming from?
I don’t mean to say that critical analysis is never used nor that it is completely useless, just that from 10 years experience in relevant fields, I have never witnessed it and so, suddenly having to do this is very difficult.

This also helps to explain why I make my photographic selections in the way that I do. To begin, I choose a fairly large selection of images based on what I prefer because of composition, lighting etc and then I narrow it down by asking others what they like most and why. I don’t often get much of a why though which is frustrating but at least I know what the majority like and therefore what should (in theory) be more to other people’s taste and saleable.

On the plus side, while I am writing this, it is starting to make me appreciate it more, although I still don’t see why it needs to be so academically written or spoken. I think that it is this element that makes me feel that it can be pretentious rather than helpful to your average everyday person. I would just rather people can understand what I’m talking about than trying to sound intellectual by using long’s a bit like legal contracts...why can’t they just use plain English!

When someone says, ‘I like your photograph’ it’s nice to hear. But when someone says ‘I like your photograph because.....’ it is so much more complementary as they are acknowledging and giving you the recognition of the work behind the photograph.

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Photographer based in Dawlish, Devon. I'm available for weddings, portraits and commissions.

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